A Game Of Two Halves

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 14 January 2018

Pompey had to settle for just their third draw of the season after being pegged back by Scunthorpe at Fratton Park yesterday.

Kenny Jackett surprised everyone with his team selection as he opted to field a 3-5-2 system which worked wonders in the first half, although his team almost fell behind early on when Jamal Lowe cleared off the line after Luke McGee did well to close Tom Hopper down from close range.

It didn't take long for Pompey's play to start flowing and Lowe showed some excellent initiative to catch Josh Morris out and steal the ball from him before producing what seems to be a trademark finish into the bottom corner from a tight angle.

The home side were in control for most of the half with Connor Ronan pulling the strings in midfield and the partnership of Ben Close and Nathan Thompson protecting the back three very well.

Brett Pitman fired a shot just wide whilst McGee had to punch Murray Wallace's long range effort over the bar to end an entertaining half of football.

The same couldn't be said for the second half as strangely Kenny Jackett decided on a tactical change which ended up working in the visitors' favour as they began to see much more of the ball and had become wise to how Ronan was running the game whenever he had the ball.

Matt Clarke made a superb challenge on Kevin van Veen early in the half to deny him when he was through on goal but he has to shoulder some of the blame for the eventual equaliser.

Ollie Hawkins failed to win an aerial duel with Hopper when a long diagonal was played and he was able to run into the box and square the ball for van Veen to tee himself up and equalise from close range.

Christian Burgess was beaten too easily by Hopper and Clarke looked all at sea when the ball came across goal, leaving himself exposed and giving van Veen the time he needed to shift the ball onto his left foot.

Pompey were then indebted to McGee for keeping the scores level as he kept out Morris' shot from close range when he seemed certain to score and Scunthorpe's other great chance came when Funso Ojo's header from a wide cross missed the target.

Kal Naismith had a couple of chances for Pompey but his efforts were blocked either by a defender or a goalkeeper and despite some late pressing from both sides, the match ended in a draw.

A draw is certainly a fair result with both teams being superior in each half although Pompey fans will be wondering just how their side can go from dominating possession to being constantly on the back foot after the break.

Whatever Jackett did at half-time just enabled Scunthorpe's wingers to influence the game and with Ronan shackled, Pompey resorted to hopeless long balls up to Pitman and it didn't work.

Another tactical shakeup saw Pompey switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation which solidified the side but sacrificed any real attacking threat in a game which the Blues needed to win more than Scunthorpe who surely would have taken a draw before the game.

Still, at least the 3-5-2 system initially worked and allowed Ronan to show us what he could do. He certainly has talent, an eye for a pass and can keep hold of the ball but it'll be interesting to see if he can replicate that kind of performance away from home against a physical side like Rotherham.

Lowe also celebrated his new contract extension with a quality performance which conveyed just how far he has come in the space of a year. He's no longer the raw talent who simply scared players with his pace but the coaching staff have done extremely well to get him to do the defensive side of the game.

There's still more to come from Lowe but one addition to the squad who doesn't tend to get singled out for praise is Nathan Thompson. He's been a consistent 7/10 performer all season but yesterday's performance had people taking notice as he shone in the defensive midfield role.

It's a shame that Thompson is the only recognised right back currently fit as he could fill Danny Rose's boots in the defensive midfield position otherwise, if Kenny decides to revert back to the usual 4-2-3-1 formation in the future.

As for the result, it's not as damaging as it could have been if you view the draw as two points dropped in the first place.

Portsmouth have dropped just one place down to seventh as Charlton eked out a 1-0 win over relegation certainties Bury but Peterborough and Rotherham dropped points at Wigan and Oldham respectively whilst Bradford were surprisingly beaten at home by Northampton.

Next week's match against the Millers is yet another big one in a big month for Pompey.

Pompey Player Ratings

Luke McGee: 8 - A couple of excellent saves.

Ollie Hawkins: 6 - Solid first half but got isolated in the second.

Christian Burgess: 6 - Beaten too easily by Hooper for the equaliser but sound otherwise.

Matt Clarke: 6 - A mixed afternoon.

Jamal Lowe: 8 - Celebrated his new contract extension in style.

Ben Close: 6 - Decent enough.

Nathan Thompson: 8 - A revelation.

Connor Ronan: 7 - Bright but faded in the second half.

Dion Donahue: 6 - Wasn't really noticed but did a solid job.

Kal Naismith: 5 - Wasn't very effective bar a couple of late chances.

Brett Pitman: 6 - Had a few attempts.

Substitutes

Alex Bass

Matt Casey

Sylvain Deslandes

Adam May (Donohue 71): N/A - Didn't see much of the ball.

Kyle Bennett

Matty Kennedy (Ronan 71): N/A - Couldn't influence the game.

Conor Chaplin

Portsmouth Match Reports

Sky Bet League One Tue 13th February 19:45

Portsmouth 1 - 2 Blackburn Rovers

Last game - Match Centre


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